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Though their original purpose was most likely to keep long hair out of a man's face, crowns evolved into a symbol of rank and position and were often emblazoned on heralds. Royal leaders wore them as a sign of power. They also wore them in battle to show that they were due special protection from their own soldiers. Religions men too wore crowns. Similar to royal ones, the crowns and hats of the religious were signs of rank and standing within their religious order. Helmets too served a purpose besides protecting one's head. The different designs of different helmets signified who was wearing them, be it a king, esquire, or knight.

Coronets of Rank






Royal Crown

King of Arms


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Crest Coronets, Crowns, Chapeaux, and Chaplets

ducal coronet



crown triumphant

civic crown

mural coronet

naval crown

eastern crown

celestial crown

astral coronet

crown vallary

palisado crown

Crown of Charlemange

Hanover Crown

imperial crown

Another crown which occurs, though rarely, in heraldic arms is the crown of Spain, described as:

A circle of jeweled gold, supporting eight strawberry leaves, no cap. Sometimes the crown includes four ogee arches, meeting under a mound and cross patée.


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The Heraldic Helmet


(i.e., duke, marquess, earl, viscount or baron)

knight or baronet

tilting helmets

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Eclesiastical Hats and Crowns

papal crown

bishop's mitre
(without and with ducal coronet)

ecclesiastical hat*

* Ecclesiastical (or clergymen's) hats come in a variety of colors and tassel numbers, which when properly drawn indicate rank or calling. According to Boutell's Manual of Heraldry (pages 226-228) these are:

  • Crimson with fifteen tassels per side = a cardinal (the number was fixed in 1832)
  • Crimson with six tassels per side = a vicar
  • Violet with six tassels per side = a domestic prelate of the Pope
  • Green with ten tassels per side = continental archbishops and bishops.
  • Black with three tassels per side = an abbot
  • Black with one tassel per side = any other clergyman

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Page content last modified
24 February 2003